By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator
After photographing the Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest two weeks ago on May 24, I returned to the location at Coverdale Farm Preserve early this morning, hoping to find the results of the female’s incubation efforts.
Peeking inside the nest, I spied a tiny grayish lump! The baby hummingbird raised its head and emitted a high pitched chirp as I perched above the nest and snapped photos. Neat rows of “pin” feathers lined the bird’s back and sides. Based upon its size and feather maturity, I guesstimate the baby to be about 9-10 days old, meaning it hatched on May 30 or 31.
The fledgling raised its head briefly and rested its beak on the edge of the nest. The beak is now only about 1 centimeter in length, but by the time it leaves the nest, the beak will be fully-developed at 1.5 to 2 centimeters. Hummingbirds fledge at 18-20 days, so in the next 10 days there will be lots of growing to do for this baby hummingbird!
Another intriguing observation is that the nest is now adorned with several oak catkins, those long yellow-brown male flowers(up to 100,000 in a mature oak!) that produce the clouds of pollen that we are all noticing right now. I suspect the female hummingbird wove the catkins into the side of her nest as a way of providing additional camouflage, since a few of the sycamore leaves around the nest have fallen off. A very creative means of decoration and disguise!
What happened to the other egg? Did it hatch? We don’t know for sure, but luckily the one baby hummingbird is alive and doing well. For great information on Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, I highly recommend the website of Operation Rubythroat, where I am learning more about these amazing birds as I follow the developments at this nest.